By: Kimberly Franklin
“What will become of you?!” “You’re hopeless!” Have you ever had these words or words like them spoken over you? Perhaps the actual words weren’t used but somehow the same message was conveyed in some way. The message that you will never amount to anything, that you’re not good enough, that you’re inevitably going to fail at life and any endeavor you attempt to undertake. In other words, no one recognized or celebrated your potential.
Was there something inside of you that, at least for a moment, rose up and retorted; “That’s not true!” And yet that inner “voice” was quickly shut down and you inevitably succumbed to the declaration that “resistance is futile,” I really won’t amount to anything. In reality that inner voice that stood up for you and declared that the hopeless message is a lie is the message that is true. That voice can be listened to and embraced.
Why is it so easy to believe and agree with the lie? Why do such statements have such power over us? I have a confession to make . . . I have believed them too. Messages such as these have infiltrated my thinking and devastated my self-confidence. And, yes, that voice that stood up for me did make an appearance but unfortunately was shot down almost immediately. I accepted the insidious lie rather than holding on to the truth my heart desperately needed and innately knew.
Keep reading to find out some practical steps to take when the negative talk gets overwhelming.
God of the Underdogs
Recently our church did a series based on the book by Matt Keller entitled God of the Underdogs. The messages explored different excuses we tend to use that hold us back from fulfilling our God given purpose. I found myself resonating with the message given on November 7, 2021 by Andrew Rosenbarker, in which he spoke of others not seeing our potential.
He talked about his dream to preach the gospel and make a difference in people’s lives. He had such enthusiasm for this dream. He received an education and got certified to preach but those in charge did not believe in him. They did not give him the opportunity to preach. Although he became hurt and discouraged, he did not quit. He found a large, old palate which he laid down in his garage for a makeshift stage. He provided barbeque and gave a message and people responded. God blessed his obedience and many came to the Lord. Now he is a pastor at Two River’s satellite church in Corning.
I came to believe that I was too stupid and not worth the effort of being given the help I desperately needed.
My story is somewhat similar. From an early age I felt like I was set aside, overlooked and devalued. Although my intelligence level was nowhere near the basement (am actually well into the attic) I still struggled with school. No one seemed to know what to do with me. Instead of working to figure it all out the school informed my parents that I was lazy. Now school AND home became places of distress for me. I felt like I didn’t measure up in either place, that I was a big disappointment.
I came to believe that I was too stupid and not worth the effort of being given the help I desperately needed. I so thoroughly believed this lie that I gave up trying entirely. I checked out of life. I withdrew into myself; into TV and fantasy. My life became a struggle to just survive. Deep inside I knew that there was more to life than just surviving but I didn’t know how to tap into that “more.” My mindset was so dark and hopeless.
As I look back on these memories, I realize I had sunk into a dark depression. I further realize that the depression was not only fueled by what others were saying about me but also by my own self-pity. I continuously dwelt on the negative aspects of my life. I was so consumed by the negative that I literally did not see anything positive about my life.
I saw my past as a very dark place with nothing but negative experiences. It wasn’t until I received counseling that I was able to get true perspective. Once I worked through some of these negative experiences and the thoughts that accompanied them, I was able to see my past in a different light. Literally light penetrated the darkness and I began to remember fun, positive experiences and I was able to see God in the midst of both the good and negative experiences.
Don’t Dwell on the Negative
There are still times when the negativity and the self-pity want to infiltrate my thinking and take over once again. Not only from my past experiences but also in current circumstances. But I have been reminded recently that these are not the places to focus my attention. Yes, bad things do happen, but dwelling on the negative and wallowing in self-pity is never the answer. It only compounds the problems we face.
Some people would say that they are only being realistic. But negativity is not realistic. It dwells in fantasy, in the what if’s or if only’s that we tell ourselves but have no basis in reality.
What Do I Focus On?
So, what are we to focus on? Romans 12:2 states; “And be not fashioned according to this world; but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that [you] may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God (ASV).” Note: this is not a one and done transaction, it is a continuous action. We are to be constantly renewing our minds, focusing on God and His Word.
Philippians 4:8 gives us specific things we can focus our attention on which steers us away from the negativity. It says; “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, . . . honorable, . . . just, . . . pure, . . . lovely, . . . of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (ASV).” I love this verse because it gives me tangible places to park my brain. Instead of plummeting further into dark thoughts about myself and my circumstances I am encouraged to think on the truth, to think on honorable and praiseworthy things, things that are lovely and pure, good things that are happening in my life and around me. I am to rejoice in these things and find courage through them.
Think on These Things…
It is also important to remember that God is the source of everything good. All these virtues found in Philippians 4 can be found in God Himself. James 1:16, 17 says; “So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle (MSG).”
It is important that we are diligent in keeping our minds focused on truth rather than on the lies of circumstances, other’s opinions, or even what we perceive others are thinking of us. We must allow God and His Word to transform our thinking, dwelling on His sustaining truth.
3 Practical Steps
In his message, Andrew Rosenbarker gives 3 ideas that can help us when others do not see our potential, or even when we don’t see our own potential. The first idea comes from Habakkuk 2:2 which says; “Write down the vision and make it plain on tablets (ASV).” Has God given you a dream? If so, write it down, write it plainly and clearly so you can revisit it when times of doubt come. Believe me they will come. If you’ve written your God given dream down you can remind yourself what God told you and take courage because it is not only your dream it is God’s dream for you and His dream will not fail. I recommend you to read Habakkuk 2:2-3 in the message it is very encouraging.
The second idea comes from Luke 16:10 which says; “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones.” Andrew points out here to start small. Don’t go for the big picture all at once. Make small steps toward the big picture. He reminds us that God is testing our hearts in the little things first then He guides us into the bigger things.
I found Andrew’s third idea to be very interesting. He said to; “Call out the potential in someone. Write down a name of an underdog that you will mentor.” To me this meant that I get my focus off myself and on to someone else. It pulls me out of the dark, self-pitying mindset and into the light of selfless relationships.
So remember, when others don’t see your potential or you even doubt your own potential don’t dwell on the negative. Instead remind yourself of God’s vision for your life. Write it down and review it often. Focus on those things that are true, honorable, pure, good and just. Be vigilant, not allowing negativity and self-pity to rule your thinking. As 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us; “. . . bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” This is intentional on our part. We must bring our thinking in line with Christ’s. With His help we are able not only to keep our thoughts aligned with His but also to accomplish the vision He has for us.